The Parallels of 1984 and the Soviet Union

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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George Orwell, a pen name for the author’s real name Eric Arthur Blair, is a man that had multiple professions, such as an essayist, imperial police officer, and a critic. However, he is best known as a novelist, writing such stories like Animal Farm, Burmese Days, and the main focus novel that will be talked about today, 1984. 1984 is the story about a man named Winston Smith, a man that lives in a totalitarian society where no one is allowed to have any independent feelings and follow Big Brother, the main figure of the society. However, Winston starts to doubt the Party, the real government behind the society, and their ways of work.

He starts to write down his thoughts in a diary, thus building independence. He later on meets a woman by the name of Julia, who also has the same beliefs about the party. They later go to a place where they are not monitored by the party, or so they thought. They are later caught by the officials because of the help of a Thought Police, a person whose job it is to catch anyone who has started to think independently by disguising themselves as regular civilians. sent to the Ministry of Love, a ministry meant for people who have committed thought crime and are tortured into loving Big Brother, hence the “Love” part of the name. He is tortured and by the end of it all, he loved Big Brother and a metaphorical bullet was placed in his head, “killing” the old Winston.

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If it wasn’t made clear, this novel follows a type of writing genre of dystopian books. These books tend to show life in a very terrible situation and depicts society as lifeless. The protagonist,in this case being Winston, acts like a gateway to the reader on how the society is like. The ending of these books usually tend to the darker end with the protagonist failing their rebellion. On another note, this tale does have a purpose.

The purpose of Orwell writing this book was to demonstrate the idea of what would happen if a totalitarian government were to take over society. With all that being said, there is something that has happened in the real world that is similar to the dystopian world made by Mr. Orwell. That being the events in the era of the USSR. Both of these things do share parallels with each other such as Gulag and the Ministry of Love, the KGB and the Thought Police, how both governments worked, how their economies are, and how Big Brother and Joseph Stalin have a parallel to each other.

For context, the way that the government in the USSR worked is that it was a branched out into multiple sectors, the Union being the biggest. Then, it would branch out into districts, each with a village it calls its own. The village then chooses its local soviet, a person for the delegates of a council for a working citizenship. Despite all this, there are still some similarities.

The USSR and the Party both are built up in a way to try and maintain power by changing the economy and establishing some sort of security. According to 1984, it states that, ¨A Party member lives from birth to death under the eye of the Thought Police”(Orwell, P.g 210). Mentioning how the people that work for the Party are underwatch is telling that the Party has established a high power strong enough that it won’t tumble down easily.The way that the government worked in 1984 is that it was a pyramidal scheme.

The higher class, people that were in the Party and such, being at the top. The middle class, being the people that live as a part of society, and the low class citizens who live out of society. The way that it works is that the middle class try to overthrow the high with help of the low by manipulation along the lines of freedom and such. The high then go down to the middle and the middle go up to high. However, the low end will stay in the low end and don’t change.

Gulag was a kind of labour camp where people who didn’t satisfy the needs of the government or broke a law are sent to work for hours on end. The torture methods used there would be that the people sent to Gulag are to work in the dreadful cold with little gear to protect themselves, along with limited rations and slept in barracks in tight places. Moreover, if you didn’t keep up to speck with the work presented to you, you will lose your rations, and end up as a goner and a reminder to the new people in Gulag what happens if you don’t follow orders.

The way that Gulag in the USSR and the Ministry of Love in 1984 are parallel with each other is that both rely on torture tactics against people who have not followed the government officials to their own beliefs. According to an article written about Gulag titled, “Living in the Gulag”, it states, “Prisoners competed for access to all of life’s necessities, and violence among the prisoners was commonplace”(Gulaghistory, Pg. 1). In 1984, it is stated that, “I’ve got a wife and three children…you can take the whole lot of them and cut their throats in front of my eyes, I’ll stand by and watch it. But not Room 101!”(Orwell Pgs 236-237).

In 1984, the torture methods that are used there are similar to Gulag in that these people were placed in horrible conditions, however the separating factor is Room 101. For context, Room 101 is room dreaded by the people in the Ministry of Love because it’s a room with the person’s worst fear. These people are also tortured in inhumane ways and even removed of rations while in the tight cellar room they are in, which is always monitored via a large monitor in the room with a camera and speakers. All in all, these two places made for torture do share some parallels to each other. However, there is another similarity that they do share.

The other parallel shared is that of Big Brother and Joseph Stalin. For context, Joseph Stalin was the main face of communism and the huge figure that the people in the USSR followed. Not many were willing to betray him and his members of congress. What he did to make the backend country into a high power superstate was unbelievable and praised by the superstate.

Joseph Stalin in the USSR and Big Brother in 1984 share a parallel to each other. The parallel being that they both were the main figures in their movement and rise to power. As Stalin himself has said, “I believe in one thing only, the power of human will”(AZQuotes Pg.1). When people from a backwards country hear these kinds of words, there is no doubt that they would be willing to support this man and his cause, similar to Big Brother. In 1984, Big Brother is the main figure that everyone looks up to. He seen as the savior of the people and shares similar physical features to Joseph Stalin.

The parallel between the KGB and the Thought Police is a close one. For context, the KGB were the secret police of the USSR, monitoring the people in silence. Their job is to find people who are to defy Stalin or just don’t see right in the eyes of the KGB.

The KGB in the USSR and the Thought Police in 1984 are similar because they both acted as a way to keep the peace in their society and to see anyone that would turn on their leader’s utopia. According to an article, it states, “The KGB was the world’s largest spy and state-security machine, involved in all aspects of life of everyday people in the Soviet Union”(Crostic, Pg.1). The way that the KGB is described to be is similar to how the Thought Police acted in 1984. The way that the Thought Police acted in 1984 is that they hid with the people in plain sight.Their purpose is to find people that have committed any thought crimes or have plans to go against Big Brother or the Party.

Another parallel that exists between 1984 and the USSR is the way their economies were run. For context, the way that the economy worked in the USSR is that it was run with lots of labour being done by the people. It was with a sort of iron fist that ran the economy.

The similarities that these both events have is that they all used a system that would be able to incorporate every person into putting their own part in.According to an article, it states, “Under the Soviet system, millions of lives were damaged or destroyed by periodic famines, episodes of mass killing, and continual, pervasive repression”(Harrison Pg.1). Mentioning the loss of lives shows that the higher powers are willing to do anything just to achieve this utopia.

In short, there are lots of parallels between the events of the USSR and the dystopian world of 1984. From the simple things as the way the main faces of the movements look, down to the way prisoners are treated. However, this tends to just tread the tip of the iceberg with the parallels they both have with one another.

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The Parallels of 1984 and the Soviet Union. (2019, Jul 21). Retrieved from